So what have I actually learnt?
It has been quite awhile since I gathered my thoughts and wrote them down. I am always saying to myself and others that “I am still learning about leadership and wish I had been told these key messages many years ago”.
‘The assimilation of important experiences almost obliges you to write about them. ‘Writing is how you make the experience your own, how you explore what it means to you, how you come to possess it and ultimately release it.’
Alvin Toffler once said. “The very process of writing changes me. It clarifies my thoughts, it organizes my time and my life”
So what are the most important themes/messages that are occupying my mind at the moment?
Firstly, capture the most important ideas you come across and write them down so you do not forget them. I have a number of notebooks that have become invaluable in capturing my thoughts and allowing me to reflect on what is important to me at that moment in time. Make sure that when you have a new idea or way of doing something you implement it.
Now the rest,
Lets get back down to basics, if you think the big break is going to find or seek you out. Forget it – You have to be the one that seeks that opportunity out and when it is there you must seize it without thought. Not many people start at the top of a profession.
I have recently made the fatal mistake of starting four projects each of which I love and am therefore behind on each of them. I have now dedicated my time to concentrating on one of them at a time and not touching the others until I have finished the one currently in front of me (note to publisher I am finishing the MAPP book first).
That is why having a clear North Star is always important and Focus is the key. I think focus is the key in every area of life. Focus is not just about the final goal it is also dynamic. That is why focus is about having a clear purpose with short medium and long term goals alongside being able to respond to events that happen and having the flexibility to adapt but not lose sight of where you are headed. Focus on what is essential to your success – what is important now – remember time can be a great friend if used wisely. If not you will never have enough.
Do not forget that personal well-being is very important – you must take time to ensure you are in a good place and have emotional, physical and mental resilience. That means wise selfishness, taking time to be healthy, have a balanced diet, have hobbies, meet friends, spend quality time with your family.
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both”.
Another great lesson – is not trying to be perfect or think you will know everything immediately you take up a role. I can’t even begin to list the mistakes I have made over the last ten years. In fact I can guarantee I will continue to make mistakes along the way. The other element is that on occasion I do get scared of what I am trying to achieve. Why would I not be scared if I am continually out of my comfort zone. The best lesson I have learnt is to embrace both elements as necessary if you want to push yourself.
CULTURE –beats strategy everytime
I am now totally convinced that after working in sports, the commercial sector, military and the government that culture is the most important ingredient to any company that wants to be consistently successful. Now this may seem obvious and I see lots of companies discussing this and creating action plans with a commitment to uphold values with culture at the heart of the programme but I see very few that live up to the expectation they create.
Sadly the minute it becomes difficult too many people resort to type and look to short term goals due to fear and Conformity of the status quo. That is why it is difficult to be a good leader. To be courageous and challenge the norm, to be able to still hold the line when the market place is difficult. I have been working alongside a very talented person who has created a fantastic culture. He called me as he was going to have to put his neck on the line in order to defend a decision he was going to make and maintain the culture he has created. All I asked him was “what is the correct thing to do”. He laughed and said “yes,I know the answer.” He held the line and his team went to a new level because they realised he was willing to fight for what he believed and the standards they had all agreed to. One last point on this, if as a leader you have finished speaking and left the room in despondency you are in the wrong job.
The next point I have to make is once you have recruited the correct person you are required as a leader to train them, to give them the skills to do their job. They should then be put in pressure situations to enhance their skills and then you will be able to judge them fairly on their performance. I come across numerous organisations that have no training programmes and are then surprised people do not perform well under pressure. Having a great culture means you are developing everyone in the team to be the best they can be. I am working alongside three different groups that have outstanding training programmes alongside tough targets. Guess what, the standard of performance from them is outstanding.
Which brings me on to empowerment – PLEASE STOP MICRO MANAGING PEOPLE. Give them a task and let them get on with it. Stop asking for daily/weekly updates that mean people waste time gathering date rather than doing their job. If their performance (not outcome) is below the required standard, then do something about it.
Develop relationships first and foremost – build your networks – help people to achieve their goals (always ask what do they need not what do I want). The paybacks are enormous. Also if you think you are going to sell things without developing the relationship before hand, think again.
To look is one thing.
To see what you are looking at is another.
To understand what you see is a third.
To learn from what you understood is still something else
But to act on what you learn is all that really matters.
Now act on all that you have learnt………………………………………………………………………………………….